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Smartphone photography, good enough for social media marketing?

Updated: Sep 21, 2018

by Tricia Kronenburg | Spots & Stripes

Taking photos for your brand social media can be daunting… you want your photos to look amazing and professional - so you need to hire a professional photographer or at least have an amazing and professional (and expensive) camera, right?


A while back, I had a clunky 'fancy' camera handed to me by a client when I announced that I was going to take some photographs for his social media. I took it with me, planning on using it (I swear)...after 30 minutes of trying to figure out the settings, I caved and went back to my trusty iPhone 7+.

iphone 7+ photo

There is still a divide in 'professional' photography and 'smartphone' photography. But how wide, or narrow, is that divide really? Check out the winning photographs below from the iPhone Photography Awards 2018.

credit: Alexandre Weber

credit: Huapeng Zhao

credit: Jashim Salam and Zarni Myo Win

Though the iPhone Photography Awards is a niche awards program, it's undeniable that smartphone photography is gaining traction. Since the first iPhone Photography Awards in 2008, the artistic (and pixel) quality of the winning photographs have improved substantially.

Soon after the first iPhone release in 2007, Facebook was quickly gaining popularity.


The combination of smartphones and social media had started a photography-frenzy, certainly a selfie-frenzy. In 2013 the 'Word of the Year' by Oxford Dictionaries was 'selfie'.



"...as smartphones have become de rigueur for most, rather than just for techies, the technology has ensured that selfies are both easier to produce and to share...It seems likely that this will have contributed at least in part to the increased usage of the word."

Richard Holden Online Editor for Oxford Dictionaries


The rise of social media has also meant a rise in the desire for better camera performance in our smartphone devices. Brands are doing their very best to deliver. The race is on, and has been 'on' since the smartphone first entered the market.


“A new era of photography.”

Apple SVP Phil Schiller on the new iPhone


Apple recently announced that the the Xs/Xr range will have an advanced camera system:

iPhone XR features a 12-megapixel f/1.8 aperture wide-angle lens with an all-new sensor, delivering faster autofocus, while larger and deeper pixels improve image fidelity and low-light performance on photos and videos. Improvements to the ISP, Neural Engine and improved software algorithms enable portrait photos with a beautiful bokeh effect. Smart HDR brings better highlight and shadow detail across photos - apple.com


In July, Sony announced it will introduce the world’s highest-resolution image sensor for phone cameras. The IMX586 is a 48 megapixel sensor - that’s the most megapixels we’ve ever seen in a sensor developed for mobile devices (most phone cameras today offer 12MP).

In 2013 (most likely in partnership with Apple though not openly mentioned), photographer Nick Knight shot an entire campaign for Diesel using an iPhone.


“I work frequently on the iPhone. It’s almost become my camera of choice.”

Nick Knight

Though, not everyone is feeling enthused about the smartphone photography takeover. No doubt the word 'Kodak' comes to mind when fearing market changes. Not too long ago in 2017, Samsung stopped selling and producing their digital camera range, due to a staggering drop in demand. The demand for their smartphones however, was sky rocketing.

"Photographers are getting destroyed by the rise of iPhones. Increasingly we don't need photographers – we can do just as well ourselves."

Antonio Olmos


As of yet the photographs made by a smartphone camera are not suitable for all commercial purposes, such as large prints (I.e. bilboards). That the revolution of the smartphone camera will completely wipe out the need for professional photographers seems unlikely. It may appear alarming due to the fact that the amount of amateur photographs is exponentially increasing, in comparison, the amount of professional photography is decreasing.

Social media (Instagram being most influential) has developed a characteristic style of photography. The age of the perfect McDonalds burger is dying, a more authentic and personal style is taking over. This style is more easily reproduced by the smartphone photographer and satisfies the consumer desire for more authenticity in advertising. The tools are available for social media marketers to create worthy photographic content, and most excitingly, these tools are only going to get better.


With a positive view on what award winning photographer Olmos said: "We can do just as well ourselves", the ball is in your court.



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